One time, an iconic franchise uprooted its iconic slashing antagonist from its comfy home that even the most casual of horror fans could probably name and took it to the Big Apple, New York City. Now, you might be wondering— How did they utilize the city? Does this killer stumble around Times Square? No. The movie spent 80 of its 100 minutes getting to NYC despite having the city’s name in the film and was the biggest disaster of that entire franchise (which is saying something). To my knowledge, no iconic franchise since has attempted the ambitious task of framing a sequel in New York City.
Enter, Scream VI — Radio Silence’s follow-up to the great “requel,” Scream (2022), which has taken Ghostface out of Woodsboro, along with our core teenagers, and placed them into Manhattan. Did they learn from the mistakes of the Ghost of (Jason) Voorhees Past (aka Jason Takes Manhattan)? Without a doubt, Scream VI is not just the most brutal entry in the franchise, but also by far the best film in the franchise since the original. That said, ambition can oftentimes bite the nails of success, and with the scope jumping to the size of the Empire State Building, so do the stakes — which are occasionally nonexistent. And as a result of the scale of the film, it requires even more suspension of disbelief to buy into the inevitable twist than any other film that came before it to middling results. The buildup, however, is perfection.
A year or so after the events of Scream (2022), the Core Four — as Mason Gooding’s character dubs them — makes the move from Woodsboro to New York City. The Core Four is made up of the two sets of siblings, Sam (Melissa Barrera) and Tara (Jenna Ortega) Carpenter and the Martin twins, Mindy (Jasmin Savoy Brown) and Chad (Gooding). The four are all attending college and going to frat parties all while Sam wants to serve as her sister’s guardian angel of sorts — working two dead-end jobs just to make ends meet (and afford their ridiculously-spacious NYC apartment) so she can watch over her sister.
But if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere, and a new Ghostface goes on a killing spree like no other. Whether it’s in bodegas, the subway, or Central Park, no one is safe and the Core Four attempt to solve who is behind Ghostface taking Manhattan.
If you somehow aren’t a fan of one or all of the Core Four, rest assured, they do get some new friends. Making her triumphant return to the franchise, Hayden Panettiere returns as Kirby from Scream 4 and they also have some new college-age friends including Chad’s roommate Ethan (Jack Champion), Anika (Devyn Nekoda) and Sam and Tara’s roommate Quinn (Liana Liberato).
And I get it, people are sick of hearing that Scream VI is “the best since the original,” but I want to be clear — I was not a fan of Scream (2022) after the first watch. Yes, Ortega stole the show, but it didn’t really grow on me until the third rewatch or so. I say that because when I say that Scream VI is the best since the original, you can’t throw the argument in my face that I said that about the last one. I love all of the sequels for their own unique traits, but Scream VI is the only one that really stands on its own since the 1996 classic.
That said, Scream VI really does rule. The chase of figuring out who and why Ghostface is attacking the Core Four is what makes it most enthralling, as the twist fell somewhat flat since I guessed it (you can check my notes), but more on that in a second. Radio Silence’s Matt Bettinelli-Olpin and Tyler Gillett really knocked it out of the park. These are two west coast guys, so I’m quite shocked and glad to report that they utilize New York City in a way that’s not alienating. It’s got to be tempting to just shoehorn a chase in Times Square into the second act, but that never happens (though a chase in the Met would be rad).
I won’t go as far as to say that New York City is a character, like most critics do with any rom-com that takes place here, but taking Ghostface and placing his targets in a city that not only doesn’t sleep but generally doesn’t care what you do in public (they really could’ve tested this theory even further), was an audacious move. It’s a success in this regard, and the bodega set piece may be my favorite in the series since the original third act house. The subway sequence is also clever because on a Halloween night, it’s totally plausible that numerous people would be dressed up as Ghostface (among other horror icons).
The cast is as good as expected. We know Ortega’s a star, but Barrera really has stepped up her game over the last year with her performances in All The World is Sleeping, Carmen and now Scream VI. Writers James Vanderbilt and Guy Busick are getting a lot of tread out of the whole “will she, won’t she” story beat, but this is what makes the Carpenter sisters unique as “final girls,” if you want to call them that. It’ll add more longevity to the franchise if they continue playing their cards right. Hats off to Barrera for making this skeptic a fan.
That whole “will she, won’t she” subplot also gives Sam much-needed layers as a character. Given that her lineage has become public knowledge, it’s inevitable that some people will hold a grudge against her for what she did in Scream (2022). Some people take it a bit far, like the one group of girls who drench her in beer like a fan of an opposing team at a football game, but it adds one more thing to the list of things that Sam has to peek over her shoulder for at all times.
Barrera’s still no Ortega, but that’s a nearly impossible bar to clear. Ortega just has a dynamism that’s palpable through the screen. She can make anything watchable — she saved Wednesday from being a poor man’s CW show — Very rarely does she waste a line, and she delivers one of the coldest final lines in the entire franchise. Ortega as Tara stole the show in Scream (2022) to the point that one would question whether or not they’d just pivot to Tara being the Sidney Prescott of this series over Sam — whom it really appeared they wanted to take the reins. Credit to the writers for sticking true to Barrera while also just building their sibling dynamic further instead of just prioritizing over the other.
Because we’ve all either been the overbearing older kid or the rebellious younger child. Sam’s concerned for her sister, who’s seemingly attempting to drown out the traumatic events of Scream (2022) from her memory and move on with her life.
It’s a compelling juxtaposition because Sam just wants to protect her sister, but Tara is equally right in wanting to move forward with her life. Tara makes it clear on a number of occasions that she doesn’t want to be stuck in this situation, constantly being harassed by a new Ghostface, but as the classic line from The Godfather Part III goes, “Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in.”
But there’s a surprising MVP of Scream VI that’s not Ortega (as dazzling as she is)… it’s Mason Gooding. As a Booksmart zealot, I’ve been a fan for a few years. He was fine in Scream (2022), but he’s actually given something to do in the sequel that’s not just being a lovable jock. He’s charming, but also protective when need be (sort of like that scene at the bar in the previous film), and it’s so nice to see him get his flowers.
It’s also nice to see fan-favorite Kirby return to the franchise. She’s the perfect match for Mindy in terms of personality, and one exchange that they have proved that. But that said, it has been so long since Scream 4 that Panettiere occasionally feels out of place in Scream VI. Of course, the character has aged and is far from the woman we saw in Scream 4 — she’s now an FBI agent — but her role rarely exceeds past being a gigantic red herring that’s supposed to make you question whether or not she’s Ghostface. Outside of that, she’s reduced to spewing techy mumbo-jumbo a la the enhancing in Blade Runner with her high-tech gadgets.
Courtney Cox returns as Gale Weathers once again. At one point, Ghostface points out that Gale is the odd one out of the OG trio —Dewey being the fan favorite and Sidney Prescott always taking the limelight — and yeah, that’s kind of true. I think that it’s well-established that Neve Campbell didn’t return for this entry (Pay the woman!), and it makes for some awkward lines where the writers had to write her out while still leaving the door open should something work out (something the directors told me they are open to).
That presents Scream VI with an interesting dilemma, one that’s good to have. Like Creed III, which didn’t feature Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky Balboa, Scream VI’s story hangs on its own and doesn’t necessarily need Sidney’s presence. As noted, they write her off in a somewhat ponderous way, but she’s not needed beyond that. She’ll always have a tie to the films much like Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars saga films, especially as Sam and Tara continue on their journey, but it’s a good problem to have because your franchise no longer hinges on one character. Barrera and Ortega have done enough to establish themselves as the new faces of the franchise going forward, but it would be asinine to not utilize Campbell when you can. Again, it’s a good problem to have when you have a few bankable, young stars in your cast.
But throwing it back to Gale, she’s a reporter, and that’s her distinguishing character trait. We all love her, no doubt, but Gale is really not that interesting if she doesn’t have Sidney or Dewey around. Apparently, she writes a book about the events of Scream (2022) against her word and thus she’s forced to regain the trust of Sam and Tara. Maybe this is a testament to the woman Gale Weathers is, but it’s a shame that this was the way that she was utilized.
Above all else, Scream VI’s biggest flaw is just how unrealistic the film can be. Now, I know you’re likely thinking to yourself, “All of these films are unrealistic!” and yes, that is true, but there’s still a line that the film decides to toe. I go into these films expecting to have to suspend my disbelief in order to accept the jumps of logic, but when a film goes too far in that direction — looking at you, Fast & Furious franchise — the stakes of the film can suffer as a result. Without saying too much, it’s as if the writers are too scared to let anyone of note go. And I get it, a lot of these characters are worth keeping around, but if you put them into this much peril just to be assured that they somehow survived by the end, it makes everything feel worthless. Maybe the idea of Sidney surviving each of her films has never felt in doubt, but do that with a number of characters and it can grow repetitive. And if I hold Marvel movies to this type of standard, it’s only fair I do so to a franchise that means something.
As for the twist — don’t worry, no spoilers — it does feel telegraphed if you pay even half attention to the film and its dialogue (you can check my notes and see that I called it). Scream (2022) really kicked into gear in the third act, which made for an entertaining twist. In the case of Scream VI, outside of it being somewhat innovative, you just have to be aware of the rules that these films abide by and you’ll figure it out.
Radio Silence has really done wonders for the Scream franchise. After the closest thing that the Scream franchise has made akin to The Force Awakens with Scream (2022), they now have their Last Jedi, except Scream VI is good. The film features the best chase and build of the entire series that makes up for the slightly disappointing third-act twist while the Carpenter sisters continue to kill it (pun intended). The possibilities for Scream VII are endless, but in Radio Silence we trust. If you’re looking for a better Scream sequel, fuhgeddaboudit!
Scream VI will be released in theaters on March 10.